Friday, June 12, 2015

On Human Cloning [Clinton Wilcox]

I recently made an appearance on the Atheist Analysis podcast to talk about stem cell research and cloning. In this podcast I decided to focus on non-religious reasons for my position since I was talking to two atheists. However, I recently received a follow-up e-mail from a listener regarding what the theological response to cloning would be. I was informed that this would make a good topic for an article, so here it is. Most of the information contained in this article was influenced by Edwin Hui's fantastic book, At the Beginning of Life: Dilemmas in Theological Bioethics. I don't agree with absolutely everything in the book, but that's only a small minority. If you are interested in more information on cloning, or most other topics relating to bioethics, you should read that book. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "do it! Do it now!"

Basically, there isn't really a theological case against (or for) human cloning because like abortion, there really isn't a discussion of cloning in the Bible. However, unlike abortion, in which it was occurring in pagan nations but there is silence in Scripture because Christians simply weren't engaging in the practice, the Bible is silent on cloning because at the time the Scriptures were written the practice wasn't even on humanity's radar as a reality. So in regards to human cloning, we can take what we know from Scripture and then come to a conclusion whether or not human cloning is permissible from there.

Biblically, we are considered full human beings made in the image of God from fertilization (see my article Does the Bible Justify Abortion? for more on this). God is the author of life, and only he has authority over it. In certain cases, that authority has been given to human beings (such as the ability to deliver capital punishment), but only in those specific cases. In the cases of abortion and human cloning, that authority has not been given to us.

With Jurassic World out today (don't worry, no spoilers!), I think it's appropriate to talk for a moment about Ian Malcolm. The original Jurassic Park was a movie about cloning Dinosaurs, not human beings, but something that Malcolm says in that film is something that I quote often, and I think about whenever I hear about some of the things scientists are willing to do. It is also appropriate in the context of cloning humans. Malcolm said, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should." This is an excellent example of why science needs philosophy. Left unchecked, scientists can do just about anything once they learn enough. But as the Federation President once said in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, "Just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we must do that thing."

So I think it's important to point out that I don't hate technology, and I'm not afraid of technology, per se. I just think that when it comes to what technologies we ought to be using and developing, we need to think carefully about it.

One of the main problems with human cloning is that it hasn't be perfected. There has been some success in cloning animals, such as the sheep Dolly. However, before Dolly was successfully cloned, 277 attempts in cloning were made, with only 29 resulting in embryos that lived longer than six days (Hui, At the Beginning of Life, p. 241), This means that hundreds (perhaps many more than in cloning sheep) of human embryos would be destroyed and experimented on for the purpose of scientific advancement. If the unborn are full human persons (as I have argued elsewhere), then this is tantamount to human experimentation, which is highly immoral.

The problem with some reproductive technologies, like cloning, is that it places the desires of the parents above the natural rights of the child. Two of the main reasons for cloning are to grow body parts or organs to replace your failing ones, or to replace a loved one who has died. In both cases, the natural rights of the child (even if the child is biologically identical to you) are ignored.

A cloned human being would be a full human being, just like any other person. This means that it would be wrong to kill them unjustly, even if the purpose for their creation was to replace your failing body parts. Growing a clone for his/her body parts will treat this new human as merely a means to an end, which is highly immoral, as all human beings must be treated as ends in themselves.

A cloned human being to replace a loved one suffers a different problem. If a grief-stricken parent loses a beloved child and attempts to clone the child, there is no guarantee the child will be exactly the same. In fact, the child likely will not be. Even identical twins have differences. In some twins, one is right-handed while the other is left-handed. This is because genes, even identical ones, express themselves differently. And since nurture is at least as important as nature in our development, a cloned child likely will not turn out exactly the same. If we could somehow find Mozart's DNA and clone him, he may very well turn out to be a drunken deadbeat, or an athlete, since he would not have the same overbearing father the first Mozart had to drive him to greatness as a composer.

Children have natural rights as human beings, which includes the right to life. This also includes the right to uniqueness. To usurp these rights for the desires of the parents would be very wrong.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

John Reasnor Fails to Show That Incrementalism is Unbiblical [Clinton Wilcox]

"Abolitionist" John Reasnor has posted up his rebuttal to my opening argument. You can view his opening argument here. You can view my opening argument here. You can view John's rebuttal here. You can read John's closing arguments (in response to this one) here. Thanks to Scott Klusendorf and Steve Hays for their helpful comments.

To review, the resolution of the current debate is as follows: "Incrementalism is incompatible with Scripture." John is affirming that resolution. I am denying it. Since John is affirming the resolution, he bears the burden of proof in our exchange.

Put simply, John must show from Scripture that incrementalism -- the legislative strategy of saving every life we can right now while working to save all children as soon as possible -- is impermissible. He can do this one of two ways. First, he can point to direct commands in Scripture that have incrementalism in mind and subsequently foreclose on it. For example, the Apostle Paul references sexual ethics numerous times in his writings, most notably the commands that believers "flee sexual immorality" and "glorify God" with their bodies (1 Cor. 6). In this case, no guesswork is required. The instructions are clear to anyone who can read the text. Second, in the absence of direct commands, John can argue from inference that Scripture forbids incrementalism. That is, he might say there's a distinction between words and concepts. Although Scripture doesn't use the term incrementalism, it nevertheless repudiates the concept by inference.

John concedes the first option is not available to him. There are no specific commands in Scripture that rule out incrementalism. In fact, as John points out, there is no discussion of it whatsoever! Rather, the terms "incrementalism" and "immediatism" are historical terms "invented by abolitionists" and "defined by abolitionists" nearly 2,000 years after the closing of the canonical documents. By admitting the term is not found there because it was invented and defined by 19th-century abolitionists, John is admitting the biblical writers did not have it in mind.

With that admission, John's burden of proof grows. If the biblical writers did not have the term in mind, John will face a stronger (though not impossible) challenge demonstrating that Scripture condemns it. In short, he must rely on inference.

Here, though, John must be extremely careful. An inference argument requires a logical (as opposed to ad hoc) extension of a larger biblical principle to a specific behavior not mentioned in Scripture. John must show, in other words, that a general -- or, preferably, universal -- principle applies to incrementalism. He can't just cite some particular command to a particular biblical character (or particular episode), then assume it's universal. Without proper controls, that leads to absurdity. Not every Biblical command is a universal command for all people at all times. Not every episode in Scripture is a paradigm to be emulated by all people at all times. To succeed, John must demonstrate a logical structure that supports extending a universal biblical principle to an unmentioned behavior, incrementalism.

This he does not do.

First, though he asserts that incrementalism is Biblically proscribed, he does not support that assertion with anything like a theologically robust case, as I explain below. Instead, we get a smattering of poor analogies that are exegetically fallacious and, even if they were valid, ironically point to a God who delivers his people incrementally. Second, John's appeal to the history of abolitionism is not only debatable, it's irrelevant to what he must prove. Even if he's right on early abolitionist thinking, it still does not make his case from Scripture that incrementalism is wrong. Third, instead of Biblically grounded arguments, we are treated to a series of ad hominem attacks which, even if true about me, do nothing to support the resolution he must prove. In short, John's response to my opening is, in large measure, either misapplied theology or an exercise in changing the subject.

For example:

1) John claims that immediatism is God's prescribed method, but his support for that claim is weak and questionable. He gives the example of Moses, where God gave him a specific command to free the Israelites, all the Israelites, from Egyptian captivity. Here we have a classic example of an exegetical fallacy -- namely, reading historical texts as prescriptive rather than descriptive. While the Bible conveys truth, not every detail or biographical example is meant to teach a normative principle we are obliged to follow. As more than one Biblical scholar points out, much of the Bible is made up of detailed information that relates to the overall structure of salvation history, but is not meant to convey moral guidelines. In short, we must understand the difference between prescriptive and descriptive material, which John confuses with his Moses example, which in turn results in a false analogy. Just because God gave Moses specific instructions for a specific purpose in Exodus does not mean that specific instruction is a normative principle that can be applied to us today. To cite an example: while it's true in Acts 1 the Apostles cast lots to replace Judas, it does not follow we should select church leaders that way. That's just how it was done at that time. Ironically, even if we adopt John's view and draw a moral principle from God's instruction to Moses, the Biblical narrative at that point works against John, not for him. Notice God's instruction to Moses was incremental. That is, God tells Moses to only free the Israelite slaves, not any of the other slaves. John gave other analogies to support his claim, but these were equally false analogies because these were Jeweish kings in a theocracy, not democratically elected officials in a constitutional republic like ours. Thus, John has failed to give any evidence whatsoever that God's prescription for us today is immediatism in AHA's understanding of the term.

2) John's use of history does not help his case for the simple reason that it's beside the point. The resolution he must prove is that incrementalism is incompatible with Scripture, not that it's incompatible with early abolitionists. As Christian apologist Greg Koukl points out, it's not enough to cite an authority and declare victory. You must go further and present an actual argument for why the authority is correct. So, merely citing Garrison won't help here. In fact, it just gives John more work. Not only must he make his case from Scripture, he must make an additional case that Garrison was biblically correct.

3) John's ad hominem attacks against me do not help his case. Suppose he's correct that I'm an antinomianist (i.e. that I believe there are no moral laws God expects us to obey), that I'm fighting abortion for humanist (not biblical) reasons, that my pro-life activism is not informed by God's hatred of murder, that I'm insensitive to Christ's commands, that I lack faith in God, and that my ultimate faith is in the political machine. Well, maybe I am and maybe I'm not that bad. Regardless, how do my alleged character flaws make his case that incrementalism is incompatible with Scripture? At best, he shows I'm unregenerate and lost in my sins. He certainly does not show that he's made his case. Indeed, I could be a complete atheist and John still loses because the debate is not about me, but John's ability to successfully defend the resolution, which he's not done. A bad Clinton Wilcox doesn't make a good argument for John Reasnor.

4) John misconstrues my point about that which belongs to Caesar. He apparently believes that when I quoted Jesus regarding Caesar, I was stating that the government has the right to decide who lives and who dies. This is simply an uncharitable reading of my words. Any honest reader will observe this is not what I meant. It was in the context of governing authority, but nowhere do I indicate that the government has this authority (especially since I have, time and again, argued that only God has that authority, and I have argued, time and again, that abortion should be illegal). John is a theonomist, meaning that he believes all kingdoms, now, are called to bow down before Christ and be Christians. I believe in a two-kingdoms view, meaning that Christians are called to personal holiness now, and nations that are not theocracies (i.e. any nation that is not Old Testament Israel) are not called to be "Christian nations". There will come a time when Christ will bring down all of his enemies, but that won't be until the end times (whenever that may be). Theonomy is based on a false interpretation of Scripture. I don't see how we can square theonomy with verses such as Jesus saying to render unto Caesar what are Caesar's (so Caesar, and all rulers, which are instituted by God, are given their authority by God), Jesus telling Pilate that his authority to put Jesus to death was given him by God (John 19:11), and Paul's admonition for us to submit to our governing authorities (Romans 13:1). There is absolutely no way that John can get from my words that I believe whether babies should live or die falls under the authority of our governing bodies.

5) John presents no biblical case against incrementalism as a political strategy. John's only response was to allude to several books in the Old Testament without arguing why they foreclose on incrementalism. What political strategy do those books mandate? John doesn't say. Given he presents no argument from those books, but merely mentions them in passing, there's nothing for me to refute here.

John did give us a few verses regarding politics, though. I find it amusing that one of the verses he cites is Romans 13:1, which says that we are to submit ourselves to the governing authorities, because their authority was given to them by God. So yes, even pro-abortion Barack Obama was put in place by God. Thankfully, in a constitutional republic like ours, we still have two strategies we can pursue simultaneously. First we can challenge evil and change hearts through the preaching of the gospel. Second, through the application of civil law, we can work to restrain heartless individuals. As Martin Luther King famously said, "The law can't make the Whiteman love me, but it can sure stop him from lynching me."

Unfortunately John has plucked many verses out of context as prooftexts to try and support his contention (which is a lousy way to do exegesis). Proverbs 11:10-11, and 14:34 aren’t about politics at all; they’re about contrasting the righteous from the wicked. Proverbs 29:2 also isn’t a political prescription. Yes, when a wicked man rules, people groan. But where is the prescription in this verse? (I’m not going to go through all of John’s out of context verses here.)

Additionally, while John is correct that Jesus is king, his prooftexts don't do the work he thinks they do. Romans 16:20 says that Jesus will crush Satan, but this does not show that nations now are required to worship Jesus as a nation currently. John continues to point to the life to come to show how he thinks things are supposed to be now, such as in 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul says that God will eventually abolish all political powers and reign after the final resurrection. Of course, John conveniently neglected to mention the verses that precede verse 25, which clearly state that at the end, Christ will abolish all rule, authority, and power. Until then, we have plenty of verses that tell us that the authorities we have in place are established by God, so we are to submit to them.

My responses to John’s analogies were not assertions. I gave reasons why they are false analogies. John’s only response, essentially, is “nu-uh.”

John goes on: “I agree that God gave specific commandments to specific people, however, my argument was never that modern Americans should be seeking the freeing of Israelites from Egypt, but that all the earth should obey God’s commandments and should worship Jesus Christ as King.”
Odd, since you gave an example about Moses freeing the Israelites from Egyptian captivity. The promise was given to Moses for that purpose, so you are drawing a false conclusion from this analogy. It’s also odd that you would use an Old Testament example since Jesus Christ had not yet been revealed as the Messiah; so how can you draw that conclusion from this example?

John says we do have specific commandments, and responds with Jesus summing up the Old Testament Law (love God, love your neighbor). However, this is not a political prescription. John is simply pulling verses out of thin air to try and prove his position. Yes, we’re supposed to love our neighbor. I should be doing things to help my neighbor. But this says nothing about what sorts of legislation we ought to be putting in front of our legislators.

The rest of John's arguments are simply not relevant to the resolution, that Incrementalism is incompatible with Scripture. John simply has not proven this. It should be clear to any honest observer that John has failed to successfully affirm the resolution.

House Keeping Matter: Defining terms

Under his “other things” heading, John essentially concedes my case regarding the definitions of "incrementalism" and "immediatism". He affirms that these words are not used in Scripture, and that he must resort to historical arguments, not Scriptural ones, in order to make his case. But the resolution is on whether or not incrementalism is Biblical, not whether it is historical. Since incrementalism is not condemned in Scripture, and John has told us that there is no discussion of it in Scripture, the resolution is negated. Incrementalism, even if it is bad pragmatically (and there is a lot of evidence that it has saved a lot of lives), is not incompatible with Scripture.

John asserts that I am muddying the terms, but this is simply false. John didn’t give us any definitions of these terms in his opening argument, which means I was forced to. John simply doesn’t understand how language works. Words evolve. So to say these words are the way they have been historically used is irrelevant to this debate. What matters is how they are used now. I’m willing to grant John’s late definition of immediatism, although he has supplied no evidence, not a single quote from a slavery abolitionist, that their understanding of immediatism is the same as AHA’s understanding of it. We are debating incrementalism, not immediatism. He is free to define "immediatism" any way he chooses.

John also didn’t give a definition of incrementalism in the debate. But since I am the incrementalist, it seems that I should be the one to define it in this debate. By insisting I adopt a view that I don’t adopt, John is essentially attacking a strawman. John said, “Incrementalism is a primarily political strategy that seeks the establishment of justice, by means of legislative compromise and regulation that results in the overturning of Roe vs. [sic] Wade or laws deemed unjust.”
John then insists that I attack his actual position, instead of using my own definition of incrementalism.

This is an illegitimate move on John’s part. First, if he insists on using this definition, then great! We can go home and call it a day. John and AHA should stop trying to get in the pro-life movement’s way because they oppose an idea of incrementalism that the pro-life movement opposes. We’re literally wasting our time debating if this is the definition that John wishes to attack, because this is not the position that I hold. If John still thinks I am in the wrong for being an incrementalist, he will have to attack the position that I hold, not the position that he thinks I hold and would rather attack (since it’s easier to refute). The pro-life movement is not compromising, nor does it believe in regulating abortion.


John's argument that incremental legislation doesn't save any lives, even if true, is irrelevant to the resolution he must defend, namely that Incrementalism is incompatible with Scripture. In one sense, this is a huge distraction. Even if it was true, that wouldn't prove that incrementalism is incompatible with Scripture. It could be compatible with Scripture, even if it's a bad strategy. But since John brought it up, even though it's irrelevant, I will respond to it.

John asserts the claim that abolitionists are sacrificing children that would have been savable with incremental legislation is a false claim and unprovable. Indeed, he doesn't present one shred of empirical evidence to support it! Meanwhile, Michael New's research shows that incremental legislation saves lives right now, giving us a chance to limit the evil done while, at the same time, working toward the protection of all children. (Note that "PChem", affiliated with AHA and writing on their blog, has tried to challenge Dr. New's research. Here is a response by Steve Hays challenging PChem's analysis.) So here's the question John needs to answer: Should those children saved through incremental legislation have been allowed to die rather than passing bills to save them? This is the question Cunningham put to Hunter in their debate that Hunter refused to answer. Now I don't agree that incremental legislation isn't working, but let's say it wasn't. Every single life spared by incremental legislation would have been a life lost as a result of abolitionist "purity." These are concrete lives that have been spared that are in danger from absolutist thinking.

John continues, "Incrementalists often make the claim that their iniquitous and partial decrees save many lives. However, the primary effect and the only proven effect of any incremental bill is solely the stated effect of the bill. A law outlawing partial birth abortion only does just that. A law banning after 20 weeks only does just that." This is simply absurd and unreasonable argumentation. Yes, a law banning partial birth abortion will only ban partial birth abortion, and a law banning abortions after 20 weeks only does just that. But does John not understand that these laws save the lives of the children would would have been killed by partial birth abortion or who were older than the cut-off? Those lives are concrete lives that have been saved. Thanks to incremental legislation, Texas abortion clinics have dropped from 41 clinics in 2013 to eight in 2014. Incremental legislation results in abortionists losing their license and clinics being shut down. And even though incremental legislation doesn't end all abortions right now, we continue to work toward ending abortion altogether and meanwhile educate the culture and try to save as many lives as we can through education and helping pregnant women, until such time as we can end abortion altogether.

Planned Parenthood and pro-choice bloggers/authors know that incremental legislation works, and that it is only a stepping stone to eventually undermining Roe v. Wade and overturning it. The only people who don't get that are "abolitionists."

Very little of John’s rebuttal pertained to the resolution at all. It is patently clear that John has not affirmed the resolution, and I have clearly negated the resolution. John has not even responded to my arguments against the resolution, so they go through as successful.

Closing Statement:

John has clearly not made his case regarding the resolution in neither his opening statement nor his rebuttal. Instead, he has resorted to personal attacks, which indicates he apparently has no case to make in defense of the resolution. That's very disappointing to me, as I was hoping for an intellectually rigorous exchange of ideas on the exegetical evidence from Scripture. I am the kind of person who is very open to evidence and am willing to change my mind if I feel someone who disagrees with me has the stronger case. John had a chance to try and change my mind but has failed in that attempt.

John supplied no syllogism, no citations of commentaries, and was so careless he even quotes Doug Wilson who appears to support incrementalism. For example, in an article called With Stirrups Raised to Molech, Wilson wrote the following: "The pro-life cause is one where conservatives have fought a successful incremental battle. The carnage has certainly been terrible, and there is still a long way to go, but one full generation after Roe v. Wade, we still have a robust pro-life movement, and it is a movement that has been making significant headway in state after state. In other words, for the secularists, the momentum -- however inadequate it may seem to us -- is all the wrong way. There are many reasons for this. They range from improvements in ultrasound technology to shrewd incremental legislation to tireless work on the part of the pro-life activists to young people growing up into the cause."

John also quoted Francis Schaeffer, but Schaeffer, also, was an incrementalist. Everett Hatcher wrote an article called Francis Shaeffer on Tax Funded Abortion, giving an evaluation of Schaeffer's book, A Christian Manifesto. She explains that in Schaeffer's book (p.103), he uses Samuel Rutherford's models of "Three Appropriate Levels of Resistance," to discuss how Christians are to engage in civil disobedience. It's noteworthy that a few pages later (p. 108), Schaeffer wrote the following, which would be an example of Rutherford's First Level of Resistance (defending oneself by protest, which in contemporary society would most often be by legal action): "In our day an illustration for the need of protest is tax money used for abortion. After all the normal constitutional means of protest had been exhausted, then what could be done? At some point protest could lead some Christians to refuse to pay some portion of their tax money. Of course, this would mean a trial. Such a move would have to be the individual's choice under God. No one should decide for another. But somewhere along the way, such a decision might easily have to be faced. Happily, at the present time in the United States the Hyde Amendment has removed the use of national tax money for abortions, but that does not change the possibility that in some cases such a protest would be the only way to be heard." This is noteworthy because 1) Schaeffer spoke favorably of the Hyde Amendment, which is an incremental type of legislation, and 2) because Schaeffer was clearly expressing that no one should decide a person's actions for him/her. They should decide for themselves. But this clearly goes against John's (and AHA-writ large's) view that anyone who does not support their own brand of immediatist legislation are sinning.

Additionally, John quoted William Wilberforce as an "Immediatist Abolitionist," but this is simply a result of historical revisionism. Wilberforce worked incrementally to end the slave trade in England, including once supporting legislation that did nothing more than make conditions safer for slaves on slave ships (did Wilberforce support slavery, as long as the conditions were clean?) I refer you back to the Cunningham/Hunter debate for more on this, as Cunningham set the record straight on Wilberforce's incrementalism.

In a formal debate, if you have not made your case in the opening and rebuttal, you lose. It's too late to make it in your closing, which should be a summary of your case. However, since I am more interested in truth than "gotcha" points, I will graciously extend to John one more opportunity to formally present his case and will postpone the cross-x until he does. After all, there is no point in doing cross-x until a formal case is presented.

But again, even if I am wrong about Wilberforce, that doesn't make John right about Scripture.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Steve Hays on Don Cooper's Debate Review

"For some odd reason, it doesn't even occur to Don that both sides, both debaters, have a burden of proof to discharge. What makes Don imagine the onus lies exclusively on the prolifer?" 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Incrementalism Debate Opening Argument [Clinton Wilcox]

This is my opening argument in a debate between "abolitionist" John Reasnor and myself, regarding the resolution Incrementalism is incompatible with Scripture (abolitionist is in quotation marks because all pro-life people are abolitionists, but those in AHA deny that those outside of AHA are actual abolitionists). John is affirming and I am negating the resolution. You can see John's opening argument here. And very special thanks to Scott Klusendorf and Steve Hays for looking this over and offering helpful comments.


The resolution as laid out before us is this: Incrementalism is a strategy incompatible with Scripture. As John is arguing the affirmative, he has the burden of proof. This means that John has the burden of proving his case. I will make a case negating the resolution, but even if I fail to make my case sufficiently, if I have managed to cast sufficient doubt on John’s position such that he has not affirmed the resolution, the debate goes to me. Additionally, John has posted AHA graphics with arguments on them. As they are not part of the body of John’s argument, I will ignore them (and you should, too).

Defining terms

John is correct in that we need to have a good understanding of the terms in this debate. John claims that we are committing an etymological fallacy by assuming these words mean what they mean (so I’m not sure John has a proper understanding of what a fallacy is). However, it is an etymological fallacy to assume that what a word meant 100 years ago is what it means now, since words evolve. What matters is how the words are being used now. By trying to force a definition onto the words that those who use it don’t mean, John is essentially attacking a strawman. It’s also incorrect to argue, as so many in AHA do, that incrementalists want to “regulate” abortion and not end it.

Unfortunately, while John said he wants to define these terms for us, he never tells us what he means by incrementalism nor immediatism. He only tells us what they are not. But if I were to say an ocean is any part of earth that isn’t land, I’m not really telling you what an ocean is, am I? So for the purposes of this debate, incrementalism is the political strategy that while we want to see abortion ended altogether, our political climate is such that ending abortion immediately is impossible. So we take incremental steps to eventually reach our end goal. Immediatism is the political strategy that incremental steps are either immoral or impratical, so the only legislation we should support is legislation that ends all abortion in one fell swoop.

Responding to John’s argument

John is also correct in that abortion is sin. However, what he and other “abolitionists” fail to do is make basic distinctions. For example, ancient Israel was a theocracy. Modern America is not. We are called to personal holiness; our nation is not called to be subservient to God. It’s significant that Jesus came to preach personal holiness, not to reform Roman society. In fact, he said “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21, NASB). The Gospel is the antidote to sin in a believer’s life; it is not the key to reformation of society. For that, we must work through the political process. The only counter-strategy AHA has to offer is in "seeding the culture," as they say, to hopefully change enough hearts and minds to eventually get all the votes they need to end abortion altogether. But the pro-life movement has been doing this for 40 years now. It's not a new strategy. The only difference is that AHA puts ideological purity over the lives of the unborn, so they can proclaim their "moral superiority" all the while children are dying because of their inaction. Why can't we work legislatively while seeding the culture?

John claims that incrementalism is condemned throughout Scripture, but never supports this claim. Until John provides evidence, this claim should be ignored.

John claims that God’s prescribed method is immediatism, but this false (and also given without evidence). The Bible is a book of history, prophecy, poetry, wisdom, and theology. It is not a book of political strategy. Immediatism is not prescribed by God, nor is incrementalism. Neither are they expressly condemned. So the question before us is whether or not incrementalism is compatible with Scripture, not which strategy is prescribed by it (because neither strategy is).

John claims that immediatism and incrementalism are mutually exclusive, but this is also false. His analogies from dark and light, etc., are false analogies. Incrementalism is compatible with immediatism because while we want to see abortion ended completely, if that is not politically possible to do, then one can take incremental steps to get there. In our political atmosphere (and really, in every political atmosphere since the beginning of human civilization), immediatism is impracticable.

Here’s another distinction John fails to make, just like Hunter did in his debate with Cunningham: slavery abolitionists believed in ending slavery altogether; they were immediatists in that respect. But like the incrementalists of today, they worked incrementally to make that happen. Immediatists are simply not reading history correctly. Like incrementalists of today, slavery abolitionists were immediatists by moral conviction, incrementalist by political strategy.

This idea about incremental laws implicitly ending with “...and then you can kill the baby” is just philosophically confused and an attempt to poison the well against incremental legislation. For one thing, every “immediatist” bill would also end with “...and then you can kill the baby.” There’s a personhood bill in Utah? Just go to Colorado, and then you can kill the baby. There’s a personhood bill in the United States? Just go to China, and then you can kill the baby. Every immediatist law is, by nature, incrementalist. This means that immediatism is necessarily incremental. By saving all the babies in Utah, AHA is condemning all the babies in every other state to death.

Second, it’s just a silly argument to make. All babies are currently targeted for abortion. We are not compromising with them, and allowing them to kill whatever babies they want. Those babies are already targeted. We are trying to save what babies we can, when we can. It’s not politically possible to save every baby. But unlike “abolitionists,” we are not willing to let thousands of children die for our ideology. It’s like these children are trapped in a burning house. There are children in rooms on the top floor that are locked, and we can’t get to them. AHA would let all those children burn because they can’t save them all. Incrementalists would rush in to save the children they can save.

John asserts that incrementalists support unjust laws, but here John is merely begging the question. He has not proven that incrementalist laws are unjust, he has only given one long irrelevant paragraph trying to compare incrementalists to a certain faction of slavery abolitionists. It’s irrelevant because it does not support the resolution, since he is trying to argue from history, not from Scripture. So even if he is correct (which is dubious), he has not supported the resolution with it.

John’s appeal to Moses and Pharaoh amounts to a false analogy. In fact, John’s first sentence shows why: Moses was given a specific commandment from God. God has given no such commandment to the pro-life movement. Additionally, this analogy works against him, since there were certainly other slaves besides Israelites in ancient Egypt. Yet Moses was told only to free the Israelite slaves. Moses was given an incremental command from God to free only the Israelite slaves. Moses was able to refuse Pharaoh’s deal because God gave him a specific command, and had given Moses signs and wonders to show that God means business. God has given the pro-life movement no such commandment, and he has given us no promise that we will win, no matter how faithful we are. By trying to claim Moses’ situation as our own now is an exegetical fallacy, since that promise was given directly to Moses regarding the freeing of God’s people from Egyptian slavery.

John also makes the statement that what we support and call for has consequences, and incrementalists should “confess their responsibility and guilt of abandoning most and showing unjust partiality.” This is just arrogance of the highest order. For one thing, John hasn’t even successfully made his case. For another, as I’ve already shown, it is immediatists, not incrementalists, who are abandoning children for the sake of their ideology (consider the burning building analogy). We do not have the ability to save all. If we have the ability to save some and do not take it, we are responsible for their deaths.

John’s appeals to Biblical prophets are just more false analogies. Again, Israel was God’s chosen people who were required, as a nation, to follow God. Other nations were not, though there were instances of God enacting judgments on other nations because of their extreme wickedness. God called the nation of Israel to repentance; he does not call other nations to repentance in the same way. We are not a theocracy, but as individual Christians, we are called to follow Christ and obey his commandments.

John’s analogy from 2 Kings 23 is a false analogy for the same reason. Josiah was a ruler of Jerusalem. It’s possible another king may have done the same thing, but they did not have commands for national holiness like Israel did, as God’s chosen people.

John’s next analogy is regarding Saul, but I feel I’m becoming like a broken record now. Saul was a Jewish king, and the Jews were called to national holiness; other nations were/are not. John has to show us where, precisely, God has given a specific command to the pro-life movement that we are not, or are only partially, obeying by supporting incremental legislation.

Ironically, John’s appeal to James can be turned right around on the “abolitionist” movement. By not supporting incrementalism, they are, in essence, telling these children “we’ll be praying for you, be warmed and be filled, don’t die” but are taking no actions to help them. They’re like the priest and the Levite would saw the beaten and battered man but are doing nothing to help. The incrementalists are the ones who see these children in desperate need, and although we can’t save them all, we will save the ones that we can. We are the ones James talked about, who are actively helping these children survive by enacting incremental legislation that saves lives. AHA is content to let them die because they can’t save them all.

John is also misreading the history of abortion techniques. It is not incrementalism that is responsible for different abortion techniques. Abortion was made a safe procedure by the advancement of medicine (such as the development of antibiotics). Abortion pills would have become a reality with or without incrementalists, since it moves abortion from an invasive medical procedure to a pill that you just take at home and flush the remains. Abortion was always much more common in the early term than the late term; that’s not a result of incrementalism.

John incorrectly mentions that we have “abandoned” the 19-week-old child, the trisomy 21 child, etc., but conveniently neglects to mention every child saved by incremental laws that AHA would rather we have abandoned. We can’t save those children right now, but if AHA has their way, no child will be spared from the abortionist’s blade until such time as we can save them all (if that ever happens).

In summary, John has used scores of Scriptures out of context to try and support his position. He has made false analogies, appealing to Jewish kings. He has also made irrelevant appeals to history, when it is the Scriptures we are debating. It should be clear by now that John has not supported the resolution.


I would like to reiterate that the Bible is a book of history, prophecy, poetry, wisdom, and theology. It is not a book of political strategy. This means that neither incrementalism nor immediatism are prescribed by Scripture.

John asked where we find incrementalism in Scripture.  Before I get in to that, John is essentially making a fallacious appeal to silence here. It's the same kind of argument pro-choice people use when they argue the Bible doesn't mention abortion, so it condones it (or is, at least, indifferent towards it). In this case, John is saying the opposite: it is not prescribed by the Bible, so therefore it is condemned by it.

Now on to incrementalism in Scripture.

First, Paul was an incrementalist. He said that he has become all things to all men so that he may by all means save some (1 Corinthians 9). He didn’t become nothing to anyone because he couldn’t save everyone. Paul was an incrementalist, yet apparently John (Reasnor) would say Paul was only partially obedient to God’s law, and that Paul did not trust in God’s power. I suppose when Paul called himself the chief of sinners, he was justifying his sin, as an incrementalist.

We also know that God works incrementally. Because of the hardness of his people’s hearts, he allowed some sins, such as divorce. As Norm Geisler writes (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1999, p. 608), “Sometimes God commands change because of the changing conditions of humanity. Such is the case with permission for divorce ‘for any cause’ in the Old Testament, and a strong prohibition in the New Testament...Jesus said the original law ‘was because of the ‘hardness of your hearts’...God sometimes overlooks certain things because of times of ignorance (Acts 17:38), but later does not.” Why aren’t “abolitionists” upset by this moral compromise that God made with his own people?

Additionally, we know that God’s revelation is progressive. An example of progressive revelation is Jews being required to sacrifice animals in the Old Testament to atone for sin, but in the New Testament we are no longer required to sacrifice animals since Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient to atone for our sins. Another example was when eating meat was forbidden before the Flood, and yet after the Flood eating meat was permitted. God revealed his revelation progressively, in incremental steps, to humanity.

So a Biblical case for incrementalism can be made as follows:

  1. If incrementalism is not expressly forbidden in Scripture, nor does it violate a clear Scriptural prescription, then it is compatible with Scripture..
  2. Incrementalism is not expressly forbidden in Scripture, nor does it violate a clear Scriptural prescription.
  3. Therefore, incrementalism is compatible with Scripture.

This is a sound argument in the form of modus ponens.

John has failed to support the resolution at issue, and I have successfully shown that incrementalism is compatible with Scripture, even if not prescribed by it (since the Bible is not a book of political strategy).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Do We Fundraise? [Clinton Wilcox]

The following post appeared on Jill Stanek's blog.

On one hand, a favorite punching bag of T. Russell Hunter is pro-life fundraising.
11122396_916351231756876_1989993906_nOn the other, Hunter's group Abolish Human Abortion is incorporated, has a for-profit arm through which it sells t-shirts and other wares, and rents office space. (Regarding office space, click to enlarge screenshot right; the original post has been removed from AHA's Facebook page.)

It was these contradictory positions Hunter had to balance in his April 25 debate against Center for Bio-Ethical Reform's Gregg Cunningham.

Hunter contended (1:06:10 on the video) that one reason Christians aren't actively involved in anti-abortion activism is because they donate money to pro-life organizations to do the work for them. (See also 1:14:24-1:16:26.)

Nevertheless, from timestamp 1:39:55-1:41:31, Hunter alleged he wasn’t opposed to fundraising per se.

But not only did this contradict Hunter's earlier statement, it contradicted a multitude of Facebook posts in which he and AHA have castigated pro-life organizations for fundraising, while two of AHA's leaders, Don Cooper and Todd Bullisactively engage in fundraising under the AHA banner. Click to enlarge...
As it is with their own incremental bills, it seems AHAers agree with fundraising as long as it fits their own agenda and not that of the larger pro-life movement.

The problem is that some people can’t feasibly stand against abortion because they work, have families that demand their attention, and maintain other responsibilities. They simply don’t have the time to be out there “in the trenches,” as Hunter would say.

So, giving funds to pro-life advocates who have devoted their life's work to the cause is their way of helping.
Donations help pro-life advocates like myself, the organization I work for (Life Training Institute), Jill StanekGregg Cunningham/Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and all the other pro-life advocates keep doing what we do. As Scott Klusendorf reminds us, there are many more people working full-time to kill babies than there are working full-time to save them. As Gregg mentioned in his debate, a part-time movement of volunteers is not going to end abortion.

We also don’t receive billions of dollars in taapayer funding, as organizations like Planned Parenthood do.
Pro-life organizations subsist on generous donations so we can continue to educate pro-life people on how to effectively and persuasively share their views, maintain pregnancy care centers, make a difference in the political realm, maintain full-time presence at abortion clinics, change hearts and minds in the marketplace of ideas so as to eventually convert our culture to a point where we can end abortion, and a multitude of other pro-life work.
Hunter, while decrying the fact that pro-life organizations fundraise, also uses the fruits of those organizations’ labor.

A prime example was the debate itself. With months to organize, AHA still produced a substandard video using substandard cameras and audio equipment. Had AHA decided to fundraise, they could afford professional equipment to make a high quality recording so arguments by both participants could easily be understood for posterity. (Fortunately, Cunningham has done just that and also recorded the debate with much greater clarity.)
In addition, AHA uses images of abortion victims that Cunningham's group has spent millions of dollars to acquire over the years. CBR was the first pro-life organization to compile an archive of broadcast quality video and still photographs.

At 1:15:45 in the video, Cunningham astutely observed that while Hunter may not fundraise, he allows CBR to do the fundraising for him, because Hunter benefits from CBR's work. Click to enlarge...
photo 1
As previously mentioned, Don Cooper, who holds himself out as AHA’s Executive Director, also fundraises (as well he should). Fundraising is an essential component of being able to work full-time to stop abortion, and activists are an essential component to ending abortion in the United States.

Pro-life people, like everyone else, have bills to pay and families to support. If they had to work full-time in another arena, they wouldn't be able to devote themselves single-mindedly to working to end abortion.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to fight to end abortion. But we do.

In the debate, Hunter not only failed to give any sort of plan for ending abortion under his immediatist regime, he failed to give any sort of a plan as to how we can end the fight for the rights of the unborn without fundraising and all just working part-time to speak out against it. This is simply an untenable view, and one AHA fraudulently claims to adhere to.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Should Christians Involve Themselves in the Legislative Process [Clinton Wilcox]

The following article originally appeared, with a section removed for space, on Jill Stanek's blog.

It is an honor to be able to contribute to Jill’s frankly devastating critique of T. Russell Hunter’s performance in his “Immediatist vs Incrementalist debate against Gregg Cunningham.

Late in the debate (timestamps 1:05:10 to 1:07:04), Hunter made the following claim: Christians are not practicing activism at abortion clinics because they don’t trust in the power of God, they trust in incremental legislation.

During cross-examination  (timestamps 1:41:32 to 1:44:56), Hunter made the same accusation, adding pastors and churches, and asked if Cunningham agreed.

Cunningham rebutted that while he agreed churches aren’t doing enough to combat abortion, it is not the fault of incremental legislation. Incremental legislation is a good thing.
Rather, Cunnngham observed:

  • Pastors are not being trained properly in pro-life apologetics, and they are not speaking about abortion to their parishioners.
  • Pastors can be afraid of losing members, so they don’t want to engage in any sort of “offensive” speech from the pulpit.
  • Christians, by and large, are not leaving the pews to engage in pro-life activism.
But there’s another problem in Hunter’s argument. Not everyone who goes to church is a bona fide Christian. Plus, not every Christian is pro-life. These facts underscore the need for proper Christian education in our churches and better education in many of our seminaries (or to encourage all pastors to attend seminary, not just start preaching if they feel “called” to do so). Additionally, Christians may be called to other ministries. I don’t think we can fault William Lane Craig for not being out at the abortion clinics. He has a very important ministry, to interact with academic atheists and show their position to be untenable. Dr. Craig saves many Christians Hunter and I won't have access to because we are involved in different spheres of life. Doctor Craig is not afraid to talk about the sanctity of life, but that's not his ministry. We can't just all drop everything to work to end abortion and let people on the street starve to death.
Finally, can we really say that all Christians who are not working to end abortion are not being like Jesus? Can we really say, for example, that someone is immoral who is spending their time to end sex trafficking, but not abortion, which is Hunter’s issue? Hunter doesn’t spend any time working to end sex trafficking, though I’m sure he would vote on bills (though probably not incremental bills) to put sex trafficking to an end. So would Hunter agree he is not being a neighbor to sex trafficking victims?
The reality is that while abortion is a major evil, it’s not the only evil. There are a lot of social issues, and if we believe that sex trafficking victims are just as intrinsically valuable and made in the image of God as the unborn children we are trying to save, then how can we say someone who works to end sex trafficking but not abortion is a fake Christian?
You can’t work to end every social evil. As they say, a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none. If you try to affect change in every social evil you won’t affect change in any because you’ll be spread too thin.

Not to be outdone, Hunter wrote the following as a comment on Jill’s post:
"As for specific bills and laws, we do believe that cultural change is necessary to their passage and are focused on doing what we can to “get the votes,” as our anti-abolitionist pro-life opponents always tell us “are not there.” But do look for specific practical actionable bills of abolition to start appearing in 2016."
In other words, legislation is actually fine, as long as it’s AHA’s brand of legislation. And somehow Hunter’s brand will not lull Christians into complacency?

The bigger problem, though, as has been pointed out before, is all bills are necessarily incremental, as would be any bill AHA proposes. If, for instance, you pass a personhood amendment in Texas, all you have to do is go to New Mexico, “…and then you can kill the baby.”
Hunter had an answer for that in another comment on Jill’s blog:
"Do I need to explain the difference? Do you see that the statewide abolition bill that bans abortion because it is the murder of human beings is different than a state Not banning abortion and not bringing humans under the protection of law but hexing a certain procedure in which they could be killed? 
"Of course people would drive to another state to get an abortion but that is because in their state abortion had been abolished as murder."
However, AHA opposes incremental legislation to close abortion clinics because “Shutting down clinics doesn’t halt abortion; it just makes people who choose to sacrifice their children drive further.”

During the debate Hunter knocked Christian involvement in legislative endeavors as distractive from real work to stop abortion.

So, should Christians be involved in the political process?

Absolutely, if we believe in effecting change for the better. In fact, as brilliant theologian Wayne Grudem pointed out, there have been many times in Jewish history when they gave counsel to ungodly rulers, such as when Daniel counseled King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, and when Joseph advised Pharaoh in Genesis. Please read the linked article for a more in-depth discussion of Christians being involved in the political process.

It’s true many Christians can use the political process as an excuse not to engage in activism, but this isn’t a problem with the legislative process. This is a problem with education in our churches, and apathy among church-goers.

We should continue to support incremental legislation because that’s the only way we’ll affect change in our current political atmosphere.

Pro-life people want the immediate end to abortion. Incremental legislation is our strategic method for getting there. Planned Parenthood knows this. Pro-choice writers like Katha Pollitt know this (it plays a major theme in her recent book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights). The only people who don’t seem to get that are the self-proclaimed “abolitionists.”

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